society, were guilty of conduct as cowardly as it was brutal.
She leaned a little, sending Pard slowly forward until he was close to the six-shooters lying on the ground. She glanced down at them quickly, and again at the men who stood, an uneasy trio, with their faces toward the wall, except when they ventured a glance sidewise or back at her over one shoulder. She glanced at the cattle huddled in the narrow mouth of the "draw" behind them, and saw that they were indeed Bar Nothing and Lazy A stock. The horses the three had been riding she did not remember to have seen before.
Jean hesitated, not quite knowing what she ought to do next. So far she had acted merely upon instincts born of her range life and training; the rest would not be so easy. She knew she ought to have those guns, at any rate, so she dismounted, still keeping the three in line with her own weapon, and went to where the revolvers lay on the ground. With her boot toe she kicked them close together, and stooped and picked one up. The last man in the line turned toward her protestingly, and Jean fired so close to his head that he ducked.
"Believe me, I could kill the three of you if I wanted to, before you could turn around," she informed them calmly, "so you had better stand still till I tell you to move." She frowned down at the rustler's gun in her hand. There was something queer about that gun.
"Hey, Burns," called the man in the middle, without venturing to turn his head, "come out of there and explain to the lady. This ain't in the scene!"
"Oh, yes, it is!" a voice retorted chucklingly. "You bet your life this is in the scene! Lowry's been pamming it all in; don't you worry about that!" Jean was startled, but she did not lower her gun from its steady aiming at the three of them. It was just some trick, very likely, meant to throw her off her guard. There were more than the three, and the fourth man probably had her covered with a gun. But she would not turn her head toward his voice, for all that.
"The gentleman called Burns may walk out into the open and explain, if he can," she announced sharply, her eyes upon the three whom she had captured so easily.
She heard the throaty chuckle again, from somewhere to the left of her. She saw the three men in front of her look at each other with sickly grins. She felt that the whole situation was swinging against her,--that she had somehow blundered and made herself ridiculous. It never occurred to her that she was in any particular danger; men did not shoot down women in that country, unless they were drunk or crazy, and the man called Burns had sounded extremely sane, humorous even. She heard a rattle of bushes and the soft crunching of footsteps coming toward her. Still she would not turn her head, nor would she lower the gun; if it was a trick, they should not say that it had been successful.
"It's all right, sister," said the chuckling voice presently, almost at her elbow. "This isn't any real, honest-to-John bandit party. We're just movie people, and we're making pictures. That's all." He stopped, but Jean did not move or make any reply whatever, so he went on. "I must say I appreciate the compliment you paid us in taking it for the real dope, sister--"